That is a question worth asking!
We all want to see our kids thriving and successful. We love watching them learn and grow. It’s easy to get caught up in all of the new skills they've gained over the last few weeks that we wouldn't even think to ask the question:
Is my child on track for age-appropriate speech and language development?
The goal of this series is to act as a guide to help you find the right answer.
Getting a Professional Speech Evaluation
If you are asking yourself this question, the best thing you can do for your child is to seek out a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) in your area. In some cases, the Speech-Language Pathologist may evaluate your child and find that they are meeting the expected speech and language milestones for their age—breathe a sigh of relief!
Other times, they may find that there is a concern with your child’s speech and/or language development—still breathe a sigh of relief! Your child will now get the specialized attention and support that they need! The earlier a concern can be addressed, the better the outcome is for your child.
The state of Iowa offers free or low-cost speech and language evaluations for children birth to school-age through Area Education Agencies. These fall under the umbrella of special education and there are rules for what does and does not qualify for needing services.
You can also seek out speech and language services through your pediatrician, privately with an individual Speech-Language Pathologist or through a therapy company. You will need to call them to determine if services from these professionals are covered by your insurance. You may also have the option to pay out-of-pocket.
Always make sure that the person providing services is certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), which is the national organization that governs speech-language pathologists. Also check that they hold a license in your state. Iowa state licenses are issued through the Iowa Department of Public Health website (idph.org) and can be verified by the public by searching with a first and last name.
A Common Mistake
Do not rely solely on your pediatrician to track and bring up a concern about your child’s speech and language milestones. It is not their area of expertise and though they mean well, they often diagnose incorrectly. Also, they (probably) don’t see your child regularly enough to note anything in a timely fashion. Just as you would go to an optometrist for blurry vision, or a car mechanic for squeaky brakes, you want the peace of mind knowing that you’re getting the most specialized recommendation for your child from an expert in their field.
Trust Your Gut!
Most importantly, trust your gut, parents. You know your child better than anyone so ask questions, seek to understand but remember to stay open-minded to what the SLP recommends. Know that we went into the field of Speech Pathology to help people and that includes having tough conversations with parents and families. It can be scary to think your child might be behind in their development, but together we can become a powerful team that gives your child the extra support they need to succeed.